Music

Fishman Fluence: The guitar pickup reinvented?

The Fluence pickup from Fishman
The Fluence pickup from Fishman
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The Fluence pickup from Fishman
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The Fluence pickup from Fishman
The single width Fluence pickup, suitable for Strat-like guitars
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The single width Fluence pickup, suitable for Strat-like guitars
The Classic neck Fluence humbucker pickup
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The Classic neck Fluence humbucker pickup
The Classic bridge Fluence humbucker pickup
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The Classic bridge Fluence humbucker pickup
The Modern Fluence humbucker pickup can be mounted in both neck and bridge positions
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The Modern Fluence humbucker pickup can be mounted in both neck and bridge positions
A Les Paul guitar with Fluence humbuckers installed
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A Les Paul guitar with Fluence humbuckers installed
A Stratocaster guitar with single width Fluence pickups installed
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A Stratocaster guitar with single width Fluence pickups installed
At the heart of the new pickups is the Fluence Core – two 48-layer boards, with each interconnected layer packing printed mini coils, and a spacer inbetween
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At the heart of the new pickups is the Fluence Core – two 48-layer boards, with each interconnected layer packing printed mini coils, and a spacer inbetween
Larry Fishman introduces the Fishman Fluence pickups at NAMM 2014
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Larry Fishman introduces the Fishman Fluence pickups at NAMM 2014
Gary Hoey demonstrates the Fishman Fluence pickups at NAMM 2014
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Gary Hoey demonstrates the Fishman Fluence pickups at NAMM 2014
The Fishman Fluence pickups on display at NAMM 2014
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The Fishman Fluence pickups on display at NAMM 2014
The Fishman Fluence pickups on display at NAMM 2014
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The Fishman Fluence pickups on display at NAMM 2014

Fishman says that its new pickup range is the first truly new electric pickup system design for over 80 years. Its Fluence technology is claimed to deliver the kind of pure, consistent tone and responsive playing dynamics that today's musicians demand, while also offering multiple voices. Additionally, since the single coil and humbucking units are of a similar shape and size to traditional wound pickups, you can leave the carpentry tools on the bench and just drop in the Fluence pickups in existing slots.

Passive pickup manufacture usually involves folks winding one long strip of copper wire thousands of times around a bobbin, and then placing a magnet or magnets in the middle. A vibrating string excites the pickup magnet, inducing a current through the coil and the signal is then routed to an amplifier. For tone junkies, though, the process is far from perfect.

Slight (or even huge) differences can creep in during manufacture, caused by anything from who is doing the winding (in hand-wired setups) to variations in material (on automated production lines). Hum to single coil pickups like those found on Fender Strats can cause players to jump over to the humbucking Les Paul camp at Gibson, but even humbuckers can bring some unwanted noise or flavor to the signal. Then there's the problem of top end output degradation due to capacitance issues associated with long cables.

The preamp, filtering and EQ of active pickups can solve some of these issues, but others spring up in their stead (such as having to make sure you have a spare good battery in the gig bag, together with the higher cost of purchase).

At the heart of the new pickups is the Fluence Core – two 48-layer boards, with each interconnected layer packing printed mini coils, and a spacer inbetween
At the heart of the new pickups is the Fluence Core – two 48-layer boards, with each interconnected layer packing printed mini coils, and a spacer inbetween

Fishman stresses that its Fluence pickups aren't about messing with the great tone of vintage favorites, but changing the way pickups are made. At the heart of the new pickups is the Fluence Core – two 48-layer boards, each interconnected layer packing printed mini coils and a spacer inbetween. True Multi-Voice electronics allows for the creation of the kind of classic colors and timbres you've come to expect from great guitar pickups, but without any of the annoying problems.

Each Fluence pickup can be wired up to toggle between different voices via a push/pull pot, or set to a favorite. Players can select a hum-free vintage 50 single coil tone, for example, and then switch to a fat, overwound Texas Strat sound, but without sacrificing any high end presence. The instrument's volume knob can be rolled back, and guitarists can still look forward to the same high end response and fidelity they'd get at full whack.

The Fluence pickups are initially being offered in three varieties, and in a choice of finishes. More variations will follow later in the year. There's a single width version suitable for Strat-like guitars, and sporting Alnico IV rod magnets. A classic humbucker model comes in neck and bridge configurations, both making use of an Alnico V bar magnet with poles. The former offers vintage PAF or the exclusive Fluence "clear, airy chime" tone, while the latter comes with a calibrated vintage PAF or Hotrod bridge voice.

Modern humbuckers come in Alnico or Ceramic flavors and can be mounted in either neck or bridge positions. One uses an Alnico V bar magnet with blades and offers active metal and crisp, clean voices. The other boasts a Ceramic VIII bar magnet circuit with blades and active metal and organic, high output passive attack voices.

The Fishman Fluence pickups on display at NAMM 2014
The Fishman Fluence pickups on display at NAMM 2014

The Fluence pickups are powered pickups, which can run on a standard 9 V battery like, say, your EMG active pickups. Or you can opt for the Fluence battery packs, which feature thin, flat Li-ion cells designed to replace the existing back covers of a guitar. They're claimed good for 200 hours or more of use between charges, and there's no need to access the belly of the beast to juice up the battery pack. A USB charging cable can be plugged into the port on the cover.

The company has not yet announced pricing, but we can reveal that the Strat-friendly single width pickup will be the first off the production line during Q2.

Larry Fishman outlines his company's new pickups in the video below.

Product page: Fishman Fluence

Fishman Fluence - Defined

4 comments
Larry English
seems like a good idea.. (unlike cardboard bicycles or printed muffin tops :) )
Sam McRae
This is a new approach to solving what some perceive as problems with the old single coil and humbucker pickups... but some of those "problems" are the sound that musicians want. Granted, every thing about stray magnetic fields, source impedance loading, and variations of windings, are perceived as "problems" but have also provided us with a great history of unique sounds. I've learned that sometimes you have to be careful in throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Just remember that "distortion" and "feedback" were bad "problems" once... I am sure that this is one advancement that will help make every guitar identical when it comes to pickups... is this going to be any fun?
Sjoerd Auke Koppert
The first truly new pickup design for 80 years? I think that honor goes to the optical pickup. Apart from that, with all due respect, Fishman really does not have a reputation that even approaches that of a company like Seymour Duncan or many others.
George R.
@Sam McRae - According to the article, "Fishman stresses that its Fluence pickups aren't about messing with the great tone of vintage favorites, but changing the way pickups are made." I had an opportunity to hear their demo at the recent NAMM show and am extremely excited to get my hands on one. There are some videos from the show on YT if you're interested.
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